Marine ecosystems are among the largest of Earth's aquatic ecosystems. Examples include salt marshes, intertidal zones, estuaries, lagoons, mangroves, coral reefs, the deep sea, and the sea floor. They can be contrasted with freshwater ecosystems, which have a lower salt content. Marine waters cover two-thirds of the surface of the Earth. Such places are considered ecosystems because the plant life supports the animal life and vice versa. See food chains.
Marine ecosystems are essential for the overall health of both marine and terrestrial environments. According to the World Resource Center, coastal habitats account for about one-third of marine biological productivity. Estuarine ecosystems, such as salt marshes, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests, are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet. Coral reefs provide food and shelter to the highest levels of marine diversity in the world.
Marine ecosystems usually have a large biodiversity and are therefore thought to have a good resistance against invasive species. However, exceptions have been observed, and the mechanisms responsible in determining the success of an invasion are not yet clear.
According to NOAA, salt marshes are defined as "coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides". These marshy grounds are able to prevent flooding as well as help maintain water quality by absorbing rainwater and runoff that comes through the area.
Intertidal zones are the areas that are visible during low tide and covered up by saltwater during high tide. In these zones simple organisms can be found in tide pools. These areas also have a higher salinity because salt is left poration has occurred.
Estuaries occur where there is a noticeable change in salinity between saltwater and freshwater sources, for example, the confluence between a river and an ocean. Many organisms rely on this fragile ecosystem at least once during their life cycle.
The National Geographic Society defines lagoons as a "shallow body of water protected from a larger body of water (usually the ocean) by sandbars, barrier islands, or coral reefs." There are two different types of lagoons: coastal lagoons and atoll lagoons.
Mangroves are a compilation of different mangrove tree species living together near the coastline to create a forest. These mangrove forests have an intricate root system that can act as habitat to many species as well as a buffer to soil erosion.
Coral reefs are one of the most well-known marine ecosystems within the world. The largest being that of the Great Barrier Reef. These reefs are composed of large coral colonies of a variety of species living together. The corals form multiple symbiotic relationships with the organisms around them.
Deep sea and sea floor
The deep sea conquers up to 95% of the space occupied by living organisms. Combined with the sea floor (or benthic zone), these two areas have yet to be fully explored and have their organisms documented making these ecosystems some of the hardest to understand by scientists.
In addition to providing many benefits to the natural world, marine ecosystems also off an abundance of ecosystem services to humans as well. From fish sold in the market to carbon dioxide riddance provided by seagrass beds, there are multiple services provided that fall into one of four categories: supporting services, provisioning services, regulating services, and cultural services.
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